Getting To Know? Dinara Safina (article for WTA site)
The "Getting To Know?" subjects of the past two weeks have more things in common than what you would initially think. Not only do Italian veteran Silvia Farina Elia and Russian teenager Dinara Safina have (almost) rhyming surnames, they?ve both enjoyed Tour singles victories recently (Farina Elia at Strasbourg in May and Safina last week in Palermo) and they also share the same birthday - 27 April - albeit 14 years apart.
That may be where the similarities end, with 31-year-old Farina Elia nearing the end of her career and the 17-year-old Safina, a Moscow native, just starting out on hers.
Safina, sister of former ATP world No.1 and US Open champion Marat Safin, played her first Tour main draw in Estoril last year, reaching the semifinals. In just her fourth Tour event, the Idea Prokom Open in Sopot, Poland, Safina became the first qualifier in nearly three years and the youngest player in more than four years (16 years, three months) to win a singles title.
An impressive debut season on the WTA Tour concluded with a No.68 ranking, up from No.394 at the start of the year.
Safina?s Sopot title defence is just two weeks away, so what better way to prepare for that than to get the winning feeling back?
After a moderate start to 2003, reaching one quarterfinal (Doha) and qualifying for Dubai, Berlin and Rome, Safina stormed through the field at last week?s Internazionali Femminili di Palermo. Not dropping a set en route to her second career title, Safina defeated Katarina Srebotnik in final, becoming the fourth different Russian to win a Tour singles title so far in 2003.
Notes & Netcords spoke with Dinara Safina, who debuts in the Top 50 this week, during her title run in Palermo.
You played on grass at Wimbledon, this week on clay, and soon on the hard courts. Is it difficult to change surfaces like that?
No, not really. It depends on my preparations for each tournament, but I can play on all surfaces. It really depends on my condition and if I?ve had time to prepare for each surface. If I don?t have a lot of practice on a surface, then it may be difficult.
You have won your second WTA Tour title. Knowing that you already have one title, did it take the pressure off when going for your second?
No, I didn?t really think about that. I just wanted to think about winning this one.
This year, you made your debuts at the first three Grand Slams, the Australian Open, Roland Garros and Wimbledon. You have already played at the US Open. If you could win only one, which one would it be?
Well, I like mostly all of them. I like the French, Wimbledon and US Open, but I think I would want to win the US Open because my brother won there.
Tennis is obviously in your family. Your mother coaches you, your father directs a tennis club, and your brother plays on the men?s Tour. How has that helped you?
They give me good advice because they have a lot of experience. My brother gave me lots of advice when I was younger and getting started. But now, we don?t talk about tennis too much because we don?t always want to be talking about tennis. It would probably make us crazy! But I do like it when he watches my matches.
When you were younger, who were some of your idols?
It was usually the person who was winning (dominating), especially at the Grand Slams. So, first it was Steffi Graf and then it was Martina Hingis and then Lindsay Davenport.
You?re 17 and one of the up-and-comers on the Tour. What is one of your major goals for this year?
I don?t really have one goal in particular except to enjoy playing.
You grew up in Spain. What was that like? Do you speak a lot of Spanish?
All of my family was there, so it was OK. It was easy there. I don?t really speak a lot of Spanish.
As you know, the Russian players on the Tour are getting lots of attention. You seem to get along with many of them and spend a lot of time with them. Is it more difficult for you to play against them?
We practice together sometimes or go to dinner together, but it isn?t more difficult to play them because in a match, I see them as just like any other player.
You said that one of your hobbies is going to the cinema, what is your favorite movie?
I don?t know. I don?t think I really have one. The last movie I saw was the Jim Carrey movie, "Bruce Almighty." I like him a lot. I don?t know what the English titles are for his movies, but I think he is really funny.